Thursday, 6 May 2010

The End of Democracy As We Know It?

Lifted unashamedly from Witterings from Witney

This post may be considered presumptious and egotistical, but it is one that I feel has to be written, so with those caveats - here goes:
I am of an age that some still have to reach and having reached that age I hope that in those years I have acquired a wisdom that those younger than me still have to attain. In my life I have seen many changes, some for the better but, unfortunately, most not - especially when considering our country and the society in which we live.
Let us go back in time to the late 1950s and early 1960s, an era when compared today is so different as to be unrecognisable. This was an era when Britain was respected by the rest of the world, when a Briton visiting abroad was respected, was held to be a 'gentleman' and someone who believed in 'fair play'. World War II does not enter into this aspect of how we as a country was viewed, what does is the fact that Britain, as the 'Mother of Democracy' was respected and regarded with awe and almost jealousy. Britain, then, was a country where manners were held in high regard, where anyone older than you was treated with respect; where men who were strangers to you were addressed as 'Sir' and ladies as 'Madam'; where men gave up their seats on trains and busses to any women, regardless of her appearance; where as a child you were not only educated but taught etiquette; where parents were respected and where 'family' and family life was important. It was an era when, as a lad of 11/12 years of age I could travel from the countryside, alone, to Lords and the Oval to watch cricket; where on home from boarding school I could do a paper round and then armed with a bucket and sponge go washing cars to earn pocket money without having to ask anyone's permission, other than that of my guardians. It was an age when I did not need to be amused, I made my own amusement which caused no harm to anyone or anyone's property. It was an age when we had politicians of learning, politicians of renown and wisdom, and politicians for whom one had respect. It was an age in which Britain was regarded as an example of how a country and its people should behave. It was an age when law & order existed and where the police were active without being intrusive - and also respected. It was an age in which Britain was, relatively, prosperous and had a manufacturing base. Do not misunderstand me when I write the foregoing - I am not saying that all those customs were ideal or are necessary in today's world. It is, however, on matters of behaviour, manners and most of all freedom that a country and society must be based, if they are in turn to be respected.
Fast forward to today and what do we find - regrettably, none of the above. Our politicians are reviled and regarded as venal, unprincipled, without apparent morals and yes, even crooks - compounded by a Prime Minister and Party Leaders who deny any knowledge of the misdemeanours that have been uncovered. Our constitution has been trashed by those same politicians who now regard the electorate's vote as something which can be bought by means of promises which they have no intention of keeping and by hiding the truth. We live in an age where children are no longer educated within the meaning of the word 'educated' and have no sense of manners or respect; where our police are no longer upholders of law and order, but are now a service achieving targets; where the people have been conditioned to forego any sense of responsibilty or thought, and therefore have to rely on the state; where there is not one possession we own that has not been touched by the hand of the state in one form or another; where our politicians have subjugated this country to foreign rule, thus negating the loss of lives expended in thwarting just such an occurence from happening in ages past. We live now in an age where politicians have brought Britain to its knees, financially; that have changed - nay engineered - our society so that we now longer recognise, nor remember, our traditions; where pride in country is frowned upon as xenophobic; where opinions, other than those dictated by the state, are considered incorrect.
A few days ago I posted a comment from a widow who lamented the loss of her social life, due to the smoking ban, who had lost the will to live and begged for the courage to join her dead husband. I think I now have some idea of how she feels, in that all that from which she drew comfort, pride and pleasure has been taken from her. One similarity that we do share is that we both lack the same degree of courage.
It is not my position to tell the electorate how they should vote - suffice it to say that I can but hope they will look around them, see the devestation that has occured in our country, decide that enough is enough and vote for something different.
Apologies to all my readers for having 'wittered' for so long and thanks for reading this post, a post that at first reading may seem stupid to some of you.
I posted this essay by WFW because it sums up just how I feel, but do not have the mental agility to put it to paper - or blog.

I've got a GPS!

I acquired a satnav or GPS at Christmas. I wanted a particular make, apparently the only make that is compatible with a South African digital map organisation, T4A, which is steadily mapping the whole of Africa, but this make is more expensive than the others, so I was forced to get the base model – no matter.

So I happily played around with it, pressing the various touch-screen buttons, and then eventually read some of the user manual. This is my usual practice, reading the manual after playing with a gadget. That is, if I ever read the manual at all.

Anyway, this satnav has a facility to enter a place by its longitude and latitude coordinates.

‘Oh what fun,’ I thought, being a bit of a nerd when it comes to playing with gadgets.

I opened up GoogleEarth on my computer and found the coordinates for the main junction in Kisii, called, funnily enough, the Junction.

I pumped the coordinates into the satnav. It thought for a while and then invited me to either look at the map or start my journey. I was a little surprised.

I elected to look at the map and, to my astonishment, it showed the confluence of the A1 and B3 roads in Kisii.

‘OK,’ I thought, if you are so clever, plan me the route!

The savnav thought for quite a long time before announcing that the route was 6,392 miles and would take 127 hours and 44 minutes. It displayed a map comprising Europe and most of Africa with a magenta line wiggling across it. I was astounded. I checked the system set-up which confirmed that the only maps loaded were for UK and Northern Ireland.

The next thing for a nerd to do would be to check the route. It took me through Europe to Istanbul, Turkey, on to Ankara, then Damascus. This is where it got a bit fuzzy, through Jordan and into Israel.

From there it took me down the west bank of the Red Sea, traversing Egypt north-south, into Sudan, Ethiopia, and then Kenya, where I started to recognise town names, Marsabit, Isiolo, Nanyuki, Nakuru, Kericho and finally, Kisii.

To me, this was impressive. I saved the coordinates for Kisii Junction and wondered what other places I should put in.

I eventually decided to enter the salient points of the route from Nairobi to Kisii, there are a couple of junctions I always nearly miss when I am driving, particularly onto the B3 from the A104, and a little later where the B3 hangs a left off the Old Naivasha Road at Mai Mahiu. From there on, it is plain sailing all the way to the junction with the C23, near Sotik.

I put in Keroka, as I have a friend who lives there. I entered the coordinates for Kisumu, Kakamega and Bungoma, all places I have driven through or to, and probably will again.

Now all I have to do is to find out if it actually works in Kenya. There is not reason why it shouldn’t. The satellites are up there, just looking for my little satnav to talk to.

I will have a chance next month, when I go to Kenya to continue working on my anaerobic digester, drum up some more business and “network” with organisations in the field.

My original intention, when choosing this particular make of satnav was to also buy the CD of East African maps from Tracks4Africa and load it. But will I need to?

OK, I don’t have all the off-road tracks and minor roads on my gadget, but do I really need them? I am not going on safari. If I do hire a car to go somewhere, I will want to get there quickly and safely – and not get lost like I did on my last trip.

I expect that I will eventually get the CD and all the software that comes with it. After all, I am a bit of a nerd, but I will take my satnav with me to Kenya and see just what it has to offer me in the meantime.

And I also hope that GoogleEarth will reinstate the Tracks4Africa overlay that used to be available.